Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family Broadcast

Enjoying Mealtime as a Family

Enjoying Mealtime as a Family

Ted Cunningham offers practical suggestions for making family mealtimes more meaningful in a discussion based on his book Come to the Family Table: Slowing Down to Enjoy Food, Each Other and Jesus.
Original Air Date: May 5, 2017


Ted Cunningham: We want our kids to walk away from our family table when they leave our home going, “That was a place that was slow. It was enjoyable.” Uh, we always want that family table to be a place where they long to come back to. We want them to come back. We want them to bring their children. We want them to bring our grandchildren.

End of Preview

John Fuller: Ted Cunningham is our guest today on Focus on the Family sharing his hopes for many family memories to be, uh, happening around the dinner table for years to come. Your host is Focus president, Jim Daly, I’m John Fuller. And Jim, I think this is, uh, one of those things people want family dinner time to be a place of good conversation and laughter and fun and togetherness.

Jim Daly: It definitely is important. It’s certainly important in our home, John. Uh, we love it and there are different reasons, uh, why it doesn’t work for everyone, schedules and those kinds of things, but it’s very good to set that goal so that hopefully a couple of times a week, maybe three, four times, you can have that dinner time together. Uh, you’ve got six kids, how do you make that work?

John: Well, i- it’s harder now that they’re older, but when they were all together and, um, you know, 10, 12 and under, uh, in age, we had a lot of energy, obviously, a lot of, uh, a lot of food. And-

Jim: (laughs)

John: … we did have some fun. We tried to make it… You know, th- there’s the high-low game you can play, there’s, uh, there are a variety of things, but, uh, we did do, as you just said, we made a point of saying, “Dinner time together, it’s important.”

Jim: Yeah. And that’s good, John, and, uh, eh, some of our funniest moments have happened around the dinner table, like Troy having milk come out his nose. (laughing) But, uh, ’cause he was laughing so hard. But those are the fun moments, and we enjoy them. I’d encourage every family to do it and, uh, today, Ted Cunningham will fill us in on some great ideas on this topic that he and his wife Amy have written about.

John: And Ted is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. He and his wife Amy have two children and we recorded, uh, a conversation you had, Jim, with Ted when he was here just recently at Focus on the Family.

Jim: Ted, welcome back to Focus on the Family.

Ted: It’s great to be back.

Jim: Okay, you’ve written this book now, Come to the Family Table. Why is the family table so important to communication? I mean, it’s not just sit around and eat. That’s not what we’re talking about, right?

Ted: Yeah, w- w- for Amy and I, the family table became (laughs) like every other part of our life. It’s something we rush to, we got through, and we moved on.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: And-

Jim: You had things to do.

Ted: We had things to do and, and food was getting in the way.

Jim: Wow. But that is a lot of families, Ted.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, we’re busy. Uh, some people, double income maybe, and there’s a lot going on and, you know, eating is just a necessity. So, you get together, you throw something in the microwave, and you quickly eat and then you got laundry to do and dishes to do and other things you gotta do. Um, that is reality. How do we make this a priority?

Ted: Well, and what happens is we start thinking (laughs) about all that you just listed, and we decide to grab something on the way home and eat it on the way home, so we have more time when we get home to do all the other chores.

Jim: Are you guilty of that?

Ted: Yeah, very. Very guilty.

Jim: (laughs) That sounds like something I’ve done before.

Ted: Yeah, and we, so we wrote Come to the Family Table and we wanted to make sure from the beginning the reader understood we are, we’re not fanatics. Like we’re not talking three-hour dinners seven days a week.

Jim: Home baked biscuits?

Ted: Yeah. (laughs) We, we-

Jim: Oh, that sounds good, though. Some home baked biscuits.

Ted: We just said-

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: … “Let’s prioritize. Let’s start with a night a week.” Like, let’s declare one night a week where we sit together as a family with no rush, and I mean it’s full on. It’s food, it’s a, a devotional, we can read something, we can play a game.

Jim: Well, take me back before that decision. What was your family like before you had this realization that we need to eat in a way that would please God?

Ted: Well, when we entered the tween and the teen phase-

Jim: Yeah. (laughs)

Ted: … we lost complete control of our schedule because you, you’re no longer just on a family schedule, you’re on… You got school, you got church, you got friends, you got small groups.

Jim: Band, you got soccer. (laughs)

Ted: And we were going in every direction and trying to find intersections during the day and that usually was at a restaurant eating out, uh, somewhere fast. We’d drive by a restaurant, we would jump out and just grab something and then we became that family where we were like, “Well, I don’t really want that, but I want that,” and so we’d go to two different places and grab it on the way home. And I mean, and it just, it got so-

Jim: (laughs) Guilty of that.

Ted: Yeah, it got so chaotic that we said, “Something’s gotta change,” because it ultimately, uh, affected our health, not just relationally and emotionally, but like-

Jim: Interesting.

Ted: … “Okay, we’re not eating all that well. Let’s just make a few changes here and see if we can bring about a little bit better quality to life.”

Jim: And what did you start doing? You began to express that once a week? You aimed for just one time a week?

Ted: We, we aimed for once a week and let it grow from there. And we, you know, we thought about the holidays. You know, holidays are a good time for us because we’re not competing with schedules and so we just loved sitting down as a family. I, I, we talk about it in the book. We had one Thanksgiving where we invited friends over from the church and my parents were there, Amy’s parents were there, other family there, and we ended up sitting around that table, I mean we’d get up every now and then, but we’re about eight hours.

Jim: Oh, really?

Ted: I mean, it, it was the center of the day.

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: Y- you know, we ended up having two meals there-

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: … throughout the day, but it went so fast. It was so enjoyable and, yeah, it was Thanksgiving. There’s games on and there’s other stuff to do but we just said, you know, “What would happen if we had a little bit of this in our life on a regular basis?”

Jim: Huh.

Ted: Again, we’re not doing Thanksgiving every week. We’re not gonna have a 3,000-calorie meal, you know, every day, so we just said, “Hey, let’s just start somewhere,” and for us it was once a week, so that was a great place.

Jim: Well, Jean and I, yeah. I, I must say to Jean’s credit, um, we’ve done a really good job in this area of having dinner every night together and it’s usually a lot of fun. It’s 30 to 60 minutes that we’ll be at the table.

Ted: Yeah. I mean, th- we can make time for this. We, we’re doing so much other stuff that we can carve out a little bit of time, uh, and if that means you have activities to do, a part of school, or an assignment or something and we’re done eating but we’re gonna stay at the table? You know, go get whichever you gotta do, bring it back here and, and-

Jim: Sit and do it together.

Ted: Yeah, we don’t need to jump up and-

Jim: I like that. So, give me the objectives.

Ted: … turn something on.

Jim: When you’re sitting there, uh, Jean tends to be a little more organized that way than I am. I mean, she wants a more formal devotion time. You know, today we will look at 2 Corinthians.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: (laughs) And I’m going-

Ted: And I did too when the kids were younger.

Jim: Okay.

Ted: (laughs)

Jim: So, you two think the same, but for me, it’s more kinda f- you know, let’s just work in the spiritual truths into the conversation.

Ted: Absolutely.

Jim: Be a little more gentle about it. Uh, n- not that it doesn’t work effectively. Actually, I think it works more effectively to talk about what’s happening in school. Uh, man, what, does the Bible say anything about that?

Ted: Yeah. That’s-

Jim: And, uh, how do you go about looking at that, Ted?

Ted: Well, this was the hardest for our son and still is. So, uh, he just, ugh, he labored over long meals. I mean, he would be like-

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: … “Oh,” and every meal started with the same question. “How long are we going to be here?”

Jim: What was pulling him away? What did he wanna go do?

Ted: Well, he saw it, and it was, it’s how he’s been conditioned his whole life, right? We go, go, go, go, go. We got stuff to do. So, we would sit down. He found it at first boring.

Jim: (laughs) Okay.

Ted: It’s just, you know, we ate, we’re done eating, now what are we still doing here? So that’s when we started to bring in the games, that’s when we started to bring in, you know, the honor bombardment that we talk about where we just go around the table and-

Jim: Honor bombardment. I like that.

Ted: Yeah. W-

Jim: What do you go around the table and do what?

Ted: Yeah, everybody shares a kind, positive word. We got this from Gary Smalley years ago.

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: And so, and we just, it’s like a game. We see, you know, keep going until we run out of things to say about the one person and then we move on to another person. And so, I think there’s a lot of that you can bring into it and that’s what we tried to bring into the book. I mean, we brought everything from recipes to games to devos. You know, u- uh, to do more at the table than just eat and ask the same question, “How was your day?”

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: There’s, there’s more to it than that and there’s more you can do to bring about the laughs like you’re talking about.

Jim: Be a little more clever. More clever about it.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: But let’s bring it into reality. Thankfully you have two children, and we have two kids as well and, you know, some days they didn’t get along all that well so when you’re sitting there saying, “Let’s honor the other child.” (laughs)

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: Have you ever had, “I really don’t feel like doing that, Dad,” ’cause, uh-

Ted: Yeah, well, you gotta know when to play what game-

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: … and so we, we move on to the more competitive games like, uh, Monopoly.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: We play Yahtzee. We love Yahtzee.

Jim: At dinner? Oh, that’s fun.

Ted: Yeah. But we’ve also, we wanna mix it up. So, my son got to a place where he was setting up the game before dinner started and we would have to say, “Hey, let’s just wait just a little bit on that, Carson. Let’s eat first. Let’s enjoy the meal that Mom has just prepared.”

Jim: Then we’ll play the game.

Ted: And then we’ll get into the game. Then we’ll do something because it’s this digital age that we live. We’ve always gotta have something in front of us keeping us busy, keeping us active, and so the opportunity to just, you know, slow down. We don’t need to be rushed. No technology at the table. Every now and then, we, we bring the technology in if we wanna show a video or something and, or somebody saw something and, “Hey, I saw this thing today. Made me laugh.”

Jim: But you’re using it as an object lesson of some sort.

Ted: It’s, it’s more of a lesson than just a mind-numbing surf of Pinterest or Facebook.

Jim: Now you and your wife, you and your, your wife, Amy, you model that well? You’re not sneaking emails at the-

Ted: Let’s move on to the next subject.

Jim: (laughs) Yeah, come on.

Ted: Jim. Yes.

Jim: No.

Ted: Unless there’s a real important call we’re waiting for, right?

Jim: But it’s rare.

Ted: It’s rare. Yeah.

Jim: Yeah. That’s good ’cause that’s what kids-

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: … are gonna see. They’re gonna… It’s not, “Don’t tell me what to do. Show me what to do.”

Ted: Yeah, and, and I just saw it the other day. A third restaurant, I, I won’t give the name but a third restaurant has this thing now with a basket, I think it was in Springfield, Missouri, where if you can put all your technology in that basket, a chain restaurant did this too with little boxes, if you can put all your technology in that basket and leave it there for the whole meal, we’ll give you 10% off your bill.

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: And other ones are doing ice cream cones and stuff like that and I’m like, “That, it’s kinda where we need to get back to to say, ‘Hey, we can go 30, 45 minutes without looking at this device.’” ‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I go into restaurants, I see couples on dates that aren’t even looking at each other.

Jim: Right.

Ted: When the families are… And I call it that mind-numbing surf. Not the “I’m checking to see the babysitter.”

Jim: Yes, right. (laughs)

Ted: You know, checking, or I’m, you know-

Jim: Looking at news and updates and sports scores.

Ted: Y- yeah. (laughs)

Jim: And your k- your family is sitting there looking at you like, “What’s he doing?”

Ted: And that was another piece of it-

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: … for us to say, “We’re, we’re on this stuff or connected to it all day. We can take a break.”

Jim: Yeah. U- uh, what is your goal when you’re, um, setting out to say, “Okay, we’re gonna do this, uh, mealtime with the family,” do you have a goal in mind? Or is it a little more haphazard? I heard you talk about set the board game up later, but is there any kind of formula that you’re looking for? Listen, especially for dads, you gotta make it simple for me.

Ted: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: I mean, what, what am I trying to do here?

Ted: Well, then-

Jim: What am I trying to achieve? (laughs)

Ted: Then you don’t even need to read the book.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: You can just look; you can just look at the cover because we put it on the cover. It’s slowing down to enjoy food, each other, and Jesus. So, there’s four things in that. We wanna slow down. We wanna enjoy the food-

Jim: Yep.

Ted: … and not rush through it and tell your kids, “Even if you don’t like what’s on your plate, I promise you in 10, 15 years you’ll get used to it and you’ll probably long for it as we long for meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corn that Grandma always fed us.” And-

Jim: That’s right. (laughs) Potatoes au gratin. I did get used to that. (laughs)

Ted: And s- yeah. And so, uh, each other, and that would be the game or the honor bombardment and then Jesus. We just wanna take time, uh, we pray together as a family around the table. We can read together, we can memorize together, and I think the key we’ve picked up with kids is to mix it up. You know, if we s-

Jim: Yeah, make it spontaneous.

Ted: Yeah, if we sit down every night and do the exact same thing… They know what the goals are, but the methods can change, and we can do different activities at the table.

Jim: Let me ask you this. When you look at scripture, I mean I love the way Jesus used mealtime. I mean, he seemed to understand.

Ted: Yeah. Reclining at the table with the 12. I love that, yeah.

Jim: Yeah, and eating and talking and there’s something… And the Lord even talks about the feast, you know. There’s something there that he’s wired us for that moment, that we’re occupied occupationally during the day doing different things, but God is trying to say, “Hey, I want you to sit together, to eat together, to think and talk about me.”

Ted: Yep.

Jim: “Talk about your day.” It’s something that He modeled for everybody.

Ted: Yeah, and we’ve kind of jumped back to that Deuteronomy 6 passage and I’m all about along the way. From the time you get up to the time you go to sleep, when you go here, when you go there, be talking about the Lord. I think we’ve adapted that verse to our lifestyles today to where now it’s like run, run, run as fast as you possibly can and bring the Lord with you along the way.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: And I get that. We do that. I understand that but I also think, I think the family table for us is it doesn’t mean that our schedule is gonna get any less crazy. We’ll still be a little chaotic at times. We get that. But this is our Sabbath. This is our break from the grind of life. We can pause and it’s something we have to schedule like everything else we put on the schedule, so this is a different pace. We want our kids to walk away from our family table when they leave our home going, “That was a place that was slow, it was enjoyable, we were relaxed. I feel there is where my mom and dad really got to know me.”

Jim: Hm.

Ted: I, they asked me probing questions there. One of the big aspects of the family table for us is safety. This is a safe place so you can share, uh, we can hold one another accountable here, we can confess here. Uh, we always want that family table to be a place where, where they long to come back to. We want them to come back. We want them to bring their children. We want them to bring our grandchildren one day and to know let me tell you what happened there. And it, and you probably heard this story. I have my grandma. I mean, Mary Jane, she passed away at 90. Uh, she was a good-sized woman. We’ll just say that.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: A fluffy grandma, if you know. And I love Mary Jane.

Jim: The best kind.

Ted: Uh, she, uh… Uh, this is a story my mom loves me sharing about my grandma. She was, (laughs) she was in the doctor’s office when she was s- uh, in her 70s and she saw the doctor write down on her chart the word obese and it completely and totally ticked my grandma off.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: And this, this is my grandma’s sense of humor. She made that young doctor cross off the word obese and write the words little chubby underneath it.

Jim: (laughing) Oh, man. That’s a smart doctor actually.

Ted: I know, I love it. And I wish I… O- one day on I’m gonna get her medical chart. I’m gonna find that little chubby…

Jim: All the scratch outs. (laughs) For everything.

Ted: Yeah, all the scratch outs that she made the doctors do. But I, I love that because when we were writing the book, I was back at Mary Jane’s table as a five-year-old, as a 10-year-old, going-

Jim: You remember.

Ted: … “This is what we did.” My grandma, she hated TV. She had one of those old TVs. You remember those terrible days, Jim, when we, we were the remotes?

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: We had to get up off the couch and change one of the three channels for her.

Jim: Well, y- you laid right in front of it-

Ted: Yeah. (laughs)

Jim: … so it was in arm’s length.

Ted: (laughs) And I just go, “Man,” I, she sat on her front porch-

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: … and at her kitchen table. That was it.

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: She talked to neighbors, and she talked-

Jim: Mm.

Ted: … to her family. That was her life.

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: And every now and then she’d take us to Dunkin’ Donuts. That was-

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: That was, that was life. And I told Amy, it, I believe, personally, I can’t prove it but it’s one of the reasons she lived to 90. It’s one-

Jim: Man, think about that.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: The Dunkin’ Donuts, huh? (laughs)

Ted: Dun- yeah. Dunkin’ Donuts.

Jim: That’s not what my doctor’s telling me.

Ted: (laughs)

Jim: You’re listening to Focus on the Family. Today our guest is Ted Cunningham, Pastor Ted Cunningham, and he and his wife, Amy, have written a book, Come to the Family Table: Slowing Down to Enjoy Food, Each Other, and Jesus. You know, the research is so supportive of what you’re talking about in the book in terms of at-risk behavior that kids f- you know, decide to go into. When families are spending time at the table, they’re far less likely-

Ted: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … uh, to go into premarital sex, drugs, alcohol, all those things. Why do you think that is? That it’s that substantial?

Ted: Mm, well, my favorite quote and it was one… I found this years ago and you’ve heard it. It’s one of, from one of my favorite presidents and I won’t say his name, but his initials are Ronald Reagan.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: And he said, “All great change in America happens around the dinner table.”

Jim: Ah, he had it. Even before the research was there.

Ted: Yeah. Yeah, and boy, the first time I heard that I’m like, “That’s right.” ‘Cause I went back to my family.

Jim: Mm.

Ted: I went back to my grandma and grandpa and sitting around their table when they didn’t have the distractions that we had. They weren’t exposed to what we were exposed to. And for me, if I’m truly the primary author of my child’s heart, which is what we believe, I’m the one writing messages on my child’s heart. Uh, I believe speed is the enemy of intimacy. Speed-

Jim: Mm.

Ted: … is the enemy of that process, so if the family table can be a place where speed is eliminated and we slow down there, I believe it’s gonna do nothing but create that intimacy you’re looking for between a parent and a child, so I can speak into my child’s heart messages that I believe are gonna be branded on their hearts for life and take with them into every relationship.

Jim: It’s so good. It really is. Yeah, it is so good for us to remember that. Uh, before we move to another topic on this subject, um, speak to the parents that are struggling. Maybe the single mom-

Ted: Mm.

Jim: … who, you know, she’s got a lot on her plate and whenever we mention single moms, all the single dads write us notes, and we appreciate that, saying, “Don’t forget us.”

Ted: Yeah. You bet.

Jim: So just a single parent, when you’ve got so much of a load, um, now we’re making them feel guilty that they’re not spending enough time at dinner time to be with their kids, but what a beautiful time, whether you’re a two-parent family or a one-parent family.

Ted: Absolutely. And, and whether you’re a two-parent family or a one-parent family, the kids need to be involved in the process of preparing the meal.

Jim: That’s a great idea.

Ted: I mean, yeah. They need to be setting the table, they need to be pouring the water. So just start the kids off with one side and it can be an easy, as easy as salad in a bag, you know? But they’re showing responsibility. This, this idea, I think we’re beyond this in many homes, and I understand it that, you know, mom comes home and does all the work cooking while we play and then she calls us in for dinner. I think preparing for the family table can be a family project and everyone can be involved, and I think that’s one great way for a single dad or a single mom-

Jim: Absolutely.

Ted: … to get the family table started is to say, “Tuesday nights. We are guarding Tuesday nights, or we’re guarding Thursday nights,” whatever the night that works for your schedule is and it’s from 6:00 to 8:00, it’s from 5:00 to 7:00, whatever time works for you but it’s two hours, and that’s start to finish. That’s, that is preparing the meal, that’s having the meal, that’s having the fun at the table. One oth- thing th- I, you know, here’s the other problem we have if… You gotta fight this if it’s your personality that everything gotta be perfectly clean before you move on to the next activity, but we have found we’ll do that in a minute. We know we’re gonna get to that because that’s a family activity, too. Clearing the table, cleaning the dishes, getting whatever needs to be put away. And that can be a two-hour deal and doesn’t need to be just on one person and so that’s where I kinda take this to the single mom and the single dad, don’t make this a one-person activity.

Jim: Yeah. Um, you talk in the book about delay, withdraw, and abandon in terms of time.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: Explain that to us, where you and Amy came to this understanding that you needed time for yourselves as a couple.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: Man, we all struggle with that, whether it’s, uh, you know, weekly or monthly, annually. But describe what you mean by daily delay, weekly withdraw, and annual abandon.

Ted: Yeah, so well, probably 15 years ago now, Joe White from Kanakuk Kamps, uh, took me out-

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Ted: … to breakfast and said, “I learned these three… From my marriage, if you want your marriage to go the distance and you wanna make it in ministry and you wanna raise a healthy family, you have to do these three things for your marriage.” And I was on the edge of my seat.

Jim: (laughs) Yeah, right.

Ted: Right, like this is gonna be the most amazing information-

Jim: Say I love you. (laughs)

Ted: … I’ve ever received, and he says, “Daily delay, weekly withdraw, annual abandon.” And it’s one of those outlines. The moment he mentioned it to me I memorized it, I never forgot it, and I put it in practice right away. How it works with the family table is this. The daily delay is 15 to 20 minutes a day. Husband and wife, eyeball to eyeball.

Jim: No distractions.

Ted: Distraction free, I believe even kid free. Weekly withdraw is the date night. It’s getting out. So, the daily delay is in or around the home. The weekly withdraw is out of the home but around town, and then the annual abandon is a trip you plan every year, a night or two away. Uh, in the Song of Solomon you see all three of these. You see the-

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: … daily delay in the secure home, you see the weekly withdraw. I’m coming to pick you up and take you on the annual abandon. She says, “Let us get out of here and go to the countryside,” you know, after they’re married. For us, we found some of the best family table time is we would sometimes start the meal with salad when our kids weren’t big salad eaters and really still aren’t.

Jim: (laughs) And that gave you 15 minutes to talk and, yeah. That’s smart.

Ted: And we said, “Your mom and I are gonna start the meal together.” We oftentimes, too, let them bus the table and said, “We’re gonna sit here and have a cup of coffee and talk for a few minutes while you guys get the kitchen cleaned up.” And so that’s as simple as 15 to 20 minutes can be. 15 to 20 minutes of the daily delay made date night so much better because it’s typically a date night that you start talking budget and children-

Jim: Right. (laughs)

Ted: … and catching up and it’s a business meeting.

Jim: Right.

Ted: Date night should never be a business meeting.

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: So, when you have the daily delay, you’re keeping short accounts during the week so when you go out, our rule on date night is let’s l- (laughs) the best we can, not talk about the children and their needs tonight. Let’s not talk about money, okay. Let’s focus on having fun and dreaming together and enjoying the company of one another.

Jim: Huh.

Ted: And then the annual abandon, best thing we ever put into our marriage. And the farther out you can plan this, the better, because then you can anticipate it all the way up to it. And it can be a simple… We’re here in Colorado Springs. You can plan an, a night or two in Denver. Uh, you, it can be in the n- town next door but just go somewhere. Do something different. Practice something different.

Jim: And it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Ted: Never has to be expensive. You can get on all these travel, great travel websites. Go to towns out of season. You know, when they’re out of season they’re offering great rates at the hotels. I mean, you can do a lot for cheap and get the grandparents involved.

Jim: Yeah. Eh, you know, you have a great sense of humor. I know our listeners love that. In fact, one of your shows is one of the most popular that we’ve done and, uh-

Ted: Mm.

Jim: … you know, people just connect with your, your sense of humor that way. When you sat around the table with the family, have there been a couple of funny moments that make you roll?

Ted: Oh, yeah. Some of them. There’s like, kinda like social media. I can’t share everything that happens (laughing) around our table. Uh, but we have some great moments and w- our, probably our funniest moments are when we do impersonations.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: And, uh, and Carson and Corine, are… They’re becoming little comedians and Carson, my youngest, he’s great at quoting the, the comedian greats and, and retelling stories and he’s at the place now where he wants me to pay him every time I use a story, uh, with him in it so that’s probably why I shouldn’t share too much. I, I don’t have no idea how much the Focus broadcast would cost me if I shared a Carson story.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: If, if it’s five bucks for a sermon, this could be 50 or 100. This could be really expensive.

Jim: There we go. Carson, we’re in your corner here.

Ted: (laughs)

Jim: We’re gonna help you with some allowance.

Ted: Yeah, for me, we do a bunch that leads to laughter. Singing, dancing.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: Uh, if you can’t sing and you can’t dance, all the better. That’s what makes it funny. Impersonations, uh, joke telling, storytelling.

Jim: Um, another aspect in the book, you talk about hospitality and I wanna make sure we get this in in the last couple minutes here because hospitality, I think Christians as a community aren’t doing as well in this area. And, and we struggle, to be honest, uh, to do it as well. And that is to invite people to the table.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: Um, outsiders. Um, you emphasize that. How do you do that and how has the family responded?

Ted: Yeah, see, t- talk about hard enough getting your own family to the table.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: Now we’re talking about coordinating your family’s schedule with another family’s schedule and we actually have a great story with this. We were sitting down finishing dinner one night. We just pushed the plates to the side of the table and we’re beginning a fun time and a family from our neighborhood that we invited over for dinner two nights from now were knocking on the front door holding a cake.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: And Amy, my wife, about falls over because she thought she got the schedule wrong. It wasn’t actually us it was them that got the schedule wrong. We invite them in and ended up sharing with them for two hours. We had nothing to feed them.

Jim: (laughs)

Ted: We had nothing left in the house, our meal was completely done.

Jim: There was nothing.

Ted: They came back two nights later for another dinner. But we broke the book down. First half is our family at the table and the second half is how can our family minister to other families? And so, whenever we have a family gathering now, we try to think about somebody at the church that doesn’t have family.

Jim: Uh.

Ted: We try to think of someone in the community that we can invite over. It can be a single, it can be a couple, it can be an entire family. And we just found, you know, we’re already making all this food. We’ve got plenty to go around. Uh, let’s make sure there’s always an empty seat that we can fill.

Jim: I think it’s so good and teaches the children so much, doesn’t it?

Ted: It-

Jim: About hospitality, about engaging people.

Ted: Yeah, and part of the burden I think on hospitality that people don’t like to do is because I think when you’re a host, you have a responsibility, not to talk about yourself but to talk about the other people at the table. And to get to know someone at your table when everybody pretty much already knows each other. Family, you know.

Jim: Right.

Ted: It just brings a whole new level of storytelling to the table-

Jim: Yeah.

Ted: … life experience to the table and we just had a great time with that over the years, bringing in folks from the church that we know aren’t gonna be traveling home for the holidays and so now we try to do that more often throughout the year.

Jim: Well, that is a great idea. Hey, one thing. We’re out of time but I want to, uh, keep going here and we’ll put this on as a web extra. I wanna talk about your family constitution-

Ted: Mm.

Jim: … and, uh, give people some pointers on how to develop that. So, we’ll do that as a web extra. We’ll ask you a few questions-

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: … and, uh, John can provide the details of how to find that at the Focus on the Family website. Uh, but, Ted, it is so good to have you back and I think you’re on to one of the most important things in terms of teaching families some healthy habits. In your book Come to the Family Table: Slowing Down to Enjoy Food, Each Other, and Jesus, this book is full of great advice and if you want to position your children… It’s not a, a, you know, a promise, but it is the right thing to do so that your kids have a shot at a healthy childhood.

Ted: Yeah.

Jim: Um, hearing your heart and learning those traits and those values from you that you believe in, most of that transmission’s gonna come at the dinner table, so make it a priority. I’ve heard that loud and clear. Thanks for being with us.

Ted: Hey, thanks for having me.

John: And Pastor Ted Cunningham has been visiting with Jim Daly here on Focus on the Family about being intentional and connecting at family mealtimes, whether that’s a special dinner once a week or several times a week. And the book Jim just mentioned is available from Focus on the Family. It includes, uh, devotional ideas for your family, recipes, and games you can use as you’re gathered for meals. Request Come to the Family Table when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or you’ll find it at And while you’re at the website be sure to watch the video of that additional conversation about creating a family constitution. And when you get in touch, please remember our financial needs. Uh, we rely on your generosity and, uh, as you contribute, you’re helping us provide resources and radio programs, podcasts, counseling, various events, all designed to help strengthen families. So, if you can make a generous donation today to the ministry of Focus on the Family, we’ll express our gratitude by sending a copy of Ted’s book. And some generous friends of Focus have offered to match your donation to help us come a long side even more struggling families and especially during this time of the holidays. So, please give families hope today knowing that your gift will be doubled to impact twice as many families. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as next time we’ll hear from Dr. John Townsend on strained relationships between parents and adult children and once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Come to the Family Table: Slowing Down to Enjoy Food, Each Other, and Jesus

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